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Monday, December 24, 2007

Molinism, Dualism & the Nicene Creed

Possible world discussions involve modal claims regarding the way reality might have been. Yet not all possible worlds are feasible worlds. (Thomas Flint coined the terms possible / feasible world, though the ideas preceded him.) In layman terms, a possible world is one that is internally consistent though might include actions individuals would never freely perform. Accordingly, it would not be feasible for God to actualize possible worlds in which moral agents will not freely cooperate to bring about the realities those worlds contemplate. For the Calvinist, possible worlds are identical in number with feasible worlds because within Calvinism, actions of choice are not according to libertarian freedom; therefore, whatever is possible for Jones to do is feasible for God to bring to pass – should God so desire. The reason being, God causes men to cooperate.

Obviously possible worlds are not God, nor his will, yet they are eternal. They are, however, a reflection of his logic, which is why it is not dualistic for there to be such abstract entities. Possible worlds are necessary and find their origin in God’s attribute(s). We can rightly say, therefore, that God’s necessary (or "natural") knowledge requires knowledge of such worlds. This is a far cry from Molinism's use of middle-knowledge, whereby God somehow knows contingently true conditional propositions about creaturely free actions couched in the subjunctive mood; such as, if Jones were in state of affairs y, he would freely choose x. Such an alleged truth cannot come from God’s necessary knowledge since the truth is alleged to be contingently true, making its truth-maker itself, nothing or some mystical entity residing outside of God and his control. Yet God, somehow, eternally acquires the knowledge of how creatures would freely behave in various circumstances. Christian or pagan?

Consider Plantinga: "It seems to me much clearer that some counterfactuals of freedom are at least possibly true than that the truth of propositions must, in general, be grounded in this way."

Plantinga, as brilliant as he is, since he is not moved by the arbitrariness and inconsistencies of Molinism, would do well to put down the pagan philosophers for a time and pick up some orthodox creeds and confessions. If the unreasonableness of Molinism doesn't constrain men such as Plantinga, maybe a greater appreciation for the heretical implications of the system might. Molinists need to come to terms with the fact that any ungrounded truth implies dualism and, therefore, results in an outright denial of the historic Christian faith, which affirms that "the Father, the Almighty, [is the] maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen, [which would include any contingently true-counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (not that there are any)].

Molinism is riddled with many theological and philosophical problems (e.g. ungrounded truth; God being informed by entities outside himself; all the problems pertaining to LFW, etc.) because the system is an avoidance of truth. It was invented in order to get out from under the complete and total sovereignty of God; so we should expect it to reduce to absurdity in obvious ways. Molinists confess pagan ideas that oppose orthodox Christianity.

Ron

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Molinism - problems, problems, problems


Molinists and Calvinists agree over the soundness of the following argument, where x is a creaturely choice.

1. Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen
2. God foreknows x
3. Therefore, x will happen

Molinists and Calvinists even agree that the following argument is fallacious as written:

1. Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen
2. God foreknows x
3. Therefore, x will necessarily happen

The fallacy in view is that of transferring the necessity of the inference to the conclusion. The Molinist will not accept, however, that the fallacy can be made to disappear a number of different ways. One way is by establishing that a necessary condition for God’s foreknowledge of x is the necessity of x. Molinists assert that x will occur, not necessarily but contingently. Of course a contingent x, by definition, truly might not occur. Accordingly, Molinists are left with God knowing that x might not occur while knowing it will occur – but these are contrary truths and, therefore, impossible for God to know. Accordingly, God’s foreknowledge of x presupposes the necessity of x for the simple reason that might and will are semantically antithetical and it is true that x will occur. Consequently, if x will occur, then it is false that it might occur.

Another way of making the fallacy disappear is to argue successfully that necessarily, God foreknows x. Molinists agree in the validity but not the soundness of the following argument (in other words, they agree with the form of argument but not with all the premises):

1. Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen
2. Necessarily, God foreknows x
3. Therefore, x will necessarily happen

Molinists deny that necessarily God foreknows x. In fact, pop-Molinist William Lane Craig states “Christian theology always maintained that God’s creation of the world is a free act, that God could have created a different world – in which x does not occur – or even no world at all. To say that God necessarily foreknows any event x implies that this is the only world God could have created and thus denies divine freedom.”

In passing we might note that Molinsts are not typically well read in the areas of Reformed systematics and historical, Reformation Protestantism. In part IV, Section VII of Jonathan Edwards’s classic, The Freedom of the Will Edwards has much to say on this matter under the heading “Concerning the Necessity of the Divine Will.” Edwards so eloquently states that “It no more argues any dependence of God’s will, that his supremely wise volition is necessary, that it argues a dependence of his being, that his existence is necessary. If it be something too low for the Supreme Being to have his will determined by moral necessity, so as necessarily, in every case, to will in the highest degree holily and happily; then why is it not also something too low for him to have his existence, and the infinite perfection of his nature, and his infinite happiness, determined by necessity. It is not more to God’s dishonor to be necessarily wise, than to be necessarily holy… and, in every case, to act most wisely, or do the thing which is the wisest of all; for wisdom is also in itself excellent and honorable… One thing more I would observe, before I conclude this section; and that is, that if it derogates nothing from the glory of God to necessarily determined by superior fitness in some things; then neither does it to be thus determined in all things…”

My appeal to Edwards as a representation of Reformed, Orthodox theologians is merely to show that Craig’s remark is a bit gratuitous to say the least. Reformed thinkers consider libertarian free choices a philosophical surd, not just as the silly metaphysical notion pertains to man but as it pertains to God as well. Not only do Molinists like Craig not appreciate that the necessity of the divine will is held by a vast number of Calvinists, notice too the imprecision in Craig’s remark where he speaks of freedom. Molinists do not draw any distinction whatsoever between liberty (i.e. the ability to choose as one wants), and the power of contrary choice, which is the alleged ability to act contrary to how one will (libertarian free will). The two are the same for the Molinist; yet the former idea pertains to moral accountability, whereas the latter is metaphysical notion that in the end would destroy moral accountability. It’s sad to consider but has anyone ever read a Molinist where he has interacted with the notion of liberty, which is the very seat of moral accountability? Why isn’t the ability to choose as we want a sufficient condition for moral accountability? Do Molinists tell us why liberty is insufficient? No, they simply ignore the matter of liberty and make the bald assertion that we must be able to choose contrary to what we will in order to be morally responsible agents. What is it after all to be able to choose x, when we intend to choose ~x? If that’s a caricature of libertarian freedom, then will a Molinist explain this metaphysical notion in light of the infinite regress problem that is inherent to the notion?


Pressing on, we should see that the minor premise that “necessarily, God foreknows x” is indeed true. If God’s foreknowledge of x was not necessary, then it was contingent. Forget for a moment that future contingencies - being truly contingent - defy eternal truth values with respect to their outcome, (which Open Theists have demonstrated). How about the simple truth that everything eternal (God and his thoughts) must be necessary? After all, did God deliberate? Did God move from not knowing to knowing? Moreover, where is “x will happen” grounded if not in the eternal, determination of God? And if there, what does it mean to determine x without determining a cause of x? Did contingent causes determine God’s eternal decree, which would include the Arminian notion of "contingent certainties"?!

A third way to get rid of the fallacy is to utilize facts that are grammatically in the past tense yet contemplate acts still future. The progression below takes no shortcuts so it might seem a bit tedious, but each step is appropriate.

Establish the necessity of God’s belief about Tom’s choice:1. 100 years ago God believed that Tom will do x tomorrow
2. If x is believed in the past, it is now necessary that x was believed then
3. It is now necessary that 100 years ago God believed that Tom will do x tomorrow

Establish the necessity of Tom’s choice, given the necessity of God’s belief:
4. Necessarily, if 100 years ago God believed Tom will do x tomorrow, then Tom will do x tomorrow
5. If p {i.e. God's historical belief about Tom's choice} is now necessary (3), and necessarily if p, then q; then q {i.e. Tom's choice of x tomorrow: (consequent from 4)} is now necessary [transfer of necessity principle]
6. Therefore, it is now necessary that Tom will do x tomorrow [3, 4 and 5]

Establish that Tom does not act freely, given the necessity of Tom’s choice:
7. If it is now necessary that Tom will do x tomorrow, then Tom cannot do otherwise
8. Therefore, Tom cannot do otherwise than x tomorrow
9. If one cannot do otherwise, then one does not act freely
10. Therefore, when Tom does x tomorrow, he will not do it freely

Molinists will again find the argument valid but take issue with some of the premises, namely 5 if not also 2. With respect to 2, a Molinist might wish to assert that the necessity of the past does not apply to the entire past, but that’s an arbitrary stricture. A Molinist might also object to premise 5, where a change of modality occurs whereby accidental necessities (necessities about the past) are intermixed with metaphysical necessities having to do with actions of choice. This, however, represents a classic case of drawing a distinction without a relevant difference. The Molinist objection is to the transfer of necessity principle, yet they permit the very same principle of logic when dealing with the validity of argument 3! Accordingly, their objection should only be with premise 2 of argument 4, but are they prepared to argue that the past is contingent and not necessary?!

Given an objection to the transfer of necessity principle, the Molinist position reduces to: Tom's choice of x will necessarily occur but contingently. What is it though for x necessarily to occur by contingent means? In other words, what does it mean for a necessary occurrence to fall out contingently?! (Again, "will = might" for the Molinist.)

In summation, Craig’s lament with argument 3 is that one cannot prove the necessity of God’s foreknowledge. If one can prove that necessity, then I am led to believe by his say-so that he would accept the conclusion of argument 3 above, which asserts the non-contingent nature of choice. Consequently, the issue with Craig and his disciples over the 10-step proof should not be over any change in modaltity in step-5, since the same sort of modality change occurs in argument 3 without objection! Craig’s objection to argument 3 is not a change of modality objection but rather strictly a metaphysical objection pertaining God’s free will. Having no modality objection there, Craigites should find none in argument 4 either. Consequently, Craig and his disciples should at least begin by conceding that in time God’s foreknowledge became necessary (step 3 – argument 4), which should lead him to embrace all the valid arguments on the page as being sound given no modality objection for argument 3. Now why won’t they? Because the matter is ethical, not intellectual, that’s why. God has blinded the Arminian to the glorious doctrines of grace, which is why they say things like: “How can God find fault, for who can resist his will?” I’m afraid that Arminians don’t recognize that Romans nine is speaking to them.



Ron
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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Presumptive Regeneration (and presumptive non-regeneration)

It should be indubitable among Bible students that Scripture and, therefore, Reformed Theology teaches that infants born of professing Christians ought to be regarded as elect in Christ unto salvation. Although sadly too often covenant children fall away; they are without exception to be regarded as elect until such time they demonstrate otherwise. Added to this, all who are to be regarded as elect are also to be regarded as regenerate. Such consistency does not preclude admonitions to make one’s calling and election sure, another matter altogether. There is no need to rehearse here a defense for the Reformed position with respect to the external status of covenant children other than to say that Ishmael, a foreknown apostate, was to receive the mark of inclusion into the people of God (a birthright indeed!), and nothing in the New Testament overturns that precept. Consequently, it is still the case under the newer economy that all those who qualify as part of the visible church are to be regarded as God's invisible-elect and those regarded as such are always to be regarded as already subdued.

Presumptive Regeneration:

When we turn to the question of presumptive regeneration, we are no longer to concern ourselves with how one is to be regarded but rather what is normative with respect to the actual (real-time) state of one’s soul. It is normative that covenant children born of faithful parents are elect, for God delights more in saving the seed of the faithful than damning them. However, it is quite another thing to argue that covenant children are typically regenerate early in infancy. I may presume election (and therefore final adoption) for the children of the faithful, as well as regeneration to occur at some time in their lives for this is normative, but I may not presume regeneration in early infancy for covenant offspring (though such infants are to be regarded as regenerate).

The Westminster Divines were indeed correct that elect infants dying in infancy are regenerate and united to Christ; nonetheless, one may not leap from that justifiable Westminster-premise to the conclusion that all elect infants are regenerate in infancy; nor ought we to reason that the mere possibility of early infant regeneration demands the normative probability of early infant regeneration.

Presumptive Non-regeneration:

Although presumptive regeneration is a false doctrine, Scripture does not afford us the premises to reason and presume that covenant infants are without regeneration either, let alone to be treated as such. Archibald Alexander could not have been more wrong when he wrote: "The education of children should proceed on the principle that they are in an unregenerate state, until evidences of piety clearly appear, in which case they should be sedulously cherished and nurtured. . . . Although the grace of God may be communicated to a human soul, at any period of its existence, in this world, yet the fact manifestly is, that very few are renewed before the exercise of reason commences; and not many in early childhood."

Presumptive Non-regeneration worse in ways:

We must not embrace the false doctrine of presumptive regeneration – nor should we embrace the equally false doctrine of presumptive non-regeneration. Note well that the latter doctrine is more harmful than the first, for at least the first doctrine allows one to consider his covenant child as he ought - a disciple of Christ; whereas the teaching of presumptive non-regeneration demands that the child be regarded as outside the camp with the wrath of God abiding upon him, a monstrous practice that is not only foreign but also contrary to the teachings of sacred Scripture.

Presumptive Regeneration does not necessarily lead to more error:

Both presumptive regeneration and non-regeneration are false doctrines. And although it might often be the case - those that embrace the former doctrine need not have a lax attitude toward making one's calling and election sure. After all, Scripture is replete with warnings not to fall away and exhortations to persevere even when conversion is assumed if not even infallibly known. For even the technician of grace, the Apostle Paul, with full assurance of his conversion buffeted his body lest he be a castaway. Consequently, those that hold to the erroneous and presumptive doctrine of presumptive regeneration need not be delinquent in practice with respect to encouraging others unto final salvation. Accordingly, a deficient doctrine of presumptive regeneration need not reduce to a hyper-Calvinism of any sort. On the other hand, those who hold to presumptive non-regeneration, like our Baptist brethren and our latent-baptist paedobaptist brethren, always (if consistent) make the mistake of treating covenant children wrongly as pagans.

Regarding one as elect and converted need not lead to nominalism; but it should lead to rejoicing more in promise than fruit:

As we treat our covenant children from the womb as disciples of the Lord, we are to instruct them to believe the entire Bible as we call them to “accept, receive, and rest upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life,” (just as we with credible professions must do as well all our days). Although we are to presume the election of infants born of faithful parents, we may not presume anything at all regarding their regeneration while yet in early infancy. We're to remain agnostic as it were with respect to the probable state of their soul, but is that so terrible? After all, I'm to regard infants in the church as regenerated disciples of Christ (are there any other kind!), and on their way to glory through proper nurturing and employment of the means of grace - a most happy thought indeed. Upon fruit we may presume their actual conversion, which although a great blesssing, our greatest rejoicing is not to be found in the fruit we see later but in the child's birth into a Christian home, which allows him to be baptized in the name of the Triune God as a disciple of Christ! Coming at this from another angle, should we rejoice less over our covenant child's eternal state should God decide to take him while still in the womb rather than after he professes Christ? If not, then why not?

The only way that the fruit of conversion can become a greater occasion for rejoicing than a birth to faithful parents is if one doubts God's promise and precepts in the first place! Isn't my a priori confidence in my child's salvation simply confirmed by a good profession and not established by the fruit I see? Shouldn't I expect to see fruit if I am believing God's precepts and promises in the first place? Isn't my utmost rejoicing to be found in God's promise and precepts (signed and sealed at the font), which precedes the always future outcome of the embraced promise, namely the ever abundant fruit of salvation? What is more extraordinary after all, that God would place an undeserving child in a covenant home and place His mark upon him, or that He would keep His promise(!) according to His precepts?

Something horrible to presume:

As for presumption, if we want to presume anything unfortunate regarding the children of professing believers, then presume that those who do not confess Christ by their late teens are more probably reprobate than not; which is all the more reason to encourage our covenant youth to make their calling and election sure, even today.

Ron
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Monday, June 25, 2007

Even Understanding Aquinnah at Dusk is a Matter of Faith, not Sight

Faith then understanding is the necessary order of embracing the beauty and wisdom of all we would otherwise never understand. Whereas the carnal mind, which will not indeed cannot walk by faith, requires understanding before it will exercise faith. Accordingly, it is not hard to appreciate why the carnal mind never arrives at understanding. Christ is not just the way back to the Father; he's the way back to the Father's world.

As Tozer noted, it is one think to hear a sweet lute played sweetly and quite another thing to hear about it.

Ron
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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Infants Dying in Infancy


Since we are to treat as Christians all those born into households that profess the true religion, then we are to consider such ones who die in infancy as dying in Christ.

If the parents of such a child are weak in the Lord yet credible Christians, then I believe we are to speak as if the child is in glory due to the child's position in the visible church. Our confidence would of course be diminished to some degree as compared to our expectations for the offspring of faithful parents who lose children in infancy.

Ron
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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Deception Often Delays Marriage


It was asked of me:
"Why is it that people a few generations ago were ready to marry and start families at 18 (or even younger) while today we have 40 year olds who aren't ready? A lot of it goes back to the fact that our kids are being entertained to death. Everything is play, play, play, and they are never taught to grow up. That in itself has a huge impact on modern "dating". Let's face it, if a person is in the process of dating for 20 years without searching for a spouse, this person is going to eventually do things he shouldn't be doing."
I'm of the opinion that one new variable is that we now live in a world where education (or at least the gaining of a college degree) is more important than before. Accordingly, there are additional pressures that can delay marriage. Having said that, I believe that the main reason for what you have observed is that people do not take sexual sin as seriously today as in years gone by. Accordingly, we have men who keep going to the well of 1 John 1:9 rather than using God's provision for the flesh, which is of course marriage. In other words, if more men would make it an absolute priority to rid themselves of their improper thought life and premarital relations through God's means of appointment, then I think the result would be earlier marriages. Finally, I also find that men can be way too selective. Sure, a man must be attracted to his spouse but so many women are not seen as attractive as they actually are because today more men are lusting after the super models that are on parade. I suppose that many women are guilty of the same sort of thing. {At the risk of taking away from what I have said above, it must be said that there are many single men who are disciplined with their thought life and are earnestly seeking a spouse though getting up in years.}

Ron

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Dating: Part II

What is the godly end to which the dating process is supposed to lead? What is the telos, in other words, of such activity? If the expressed purpose of dating is not to ascertain whether another person is well suited to be one's spouse, then what would be the God centered purpose or design of dating – simply mere recreation and experience? What can be the biblical purpose of an exclusive relationship if not the pursuit of a life's mate? For instance, what could be the purpose of a sixteen year old boy and girl holding hands? Is such activity among Christians permissible without question, or are there some principles that must first obtain for such activity to be found appropriate? We might consider whether a girl would feel slighted if she saw the boy she was holding hands with yesterday holding another girl’s hand today. Obviously the girl would feel affronted because she would have learned that she was not as unique as she was led to believe. Consequently, something as “innocent” as holding hands has grave implications. Therefore, such activity should not be entered into lightly – for such activity implies unique and particular regard for another person and, therefore, should at least be reserved for one who is being pursued for more than just recreation and experience.

I am not categorically opposed to young men and women holding hands outside of marriage. Under certain circumstances I believe that such limited physical contact can even be appropriate, like taking a man's arm. If a man and woman are pursuing each other with the expressed purpose of ascertaining a life’s mate, then I can appreciate the physical relationship blossoming in a manner consistent with self-conscious, biblically harnessed feelings and intentions that would make holding hands a most wholesome and appropriate expression of such a relationship. I do believe, however, that such conduct should always culminate in engagement. To hold hands without an imminent engagement is never under good regulation. Also, I would argue that young men and women for a time may be exclusively dating, apart from engagement, but only in order to remain focused on the question of whether the other person is the right one or not. However, when people are too young to seriously marry, then I can find no sound reason for the exclusivity of a testing period that would entail holding hands. Again, it all gets back to purpose, which includes putting others before ourselves. What would be the purpose of a teenager who is not prepared to marry expressing exclusivity in the romantic, sensitive way of holding hands? How is God glorified in leading another person (by the hand!) toward nothing in particular? For that matter, what would be the purpose of any couple of any age expressing such exclusivity apart from an eye toward marriage?

Parents should be willing to ask their children, “Why would you hold hands?" and wait to see what they get for an answer. Unfortunately, if the question has to be asked, then the training of the child was probably not done in the first place.


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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Some Thoughts on Dating (Part 1)


1. If two people are merely friends, then it is misleading to say "they are dating." Therefore, dating must include some other element; whether it is dating according to biblical principles or dating according to the ways of this world, another element turns common friendships into dating relationships. Accordingly, when we are speaking of "dating" we are referring to something more than just friendly relationships between people of opposite persuasion. We are talking about a peculiar kind of relationship that is beyond mere friendship.

2. If dating includes giving one's heart away or any sort of exclusive relationship-claim whereby obligations are imposed upon another person without an eye toward marriage, then not only may Christians not date non-Christians - they may not date Christians either! When a woman gives her heart away to a man outside of a marriage commitment, the "boyfriend" is placed in the position of exercising unbiblical authority over the woman that is reserved for the woman's prime, earthly authority (typically her father) and is one day to be transferred to the woman's husband. In such exclusive dating-relationships the woman's conscience becomes un-biblically bound by the boyfriend whereby she loses certain privileges of singleness, such as spending time with other men who might be good candidates for marriage. Nobody except a parent or spouse is to hold such a position over someone else. A single woman is to submit to her father, not her "boyfriend." Giving one's heart away without a marriage commitment not only runs contrary to what the Bible teaches regarding guarding one's heart, it is contrary to what the Bible teaches about parental authority (and the proper transfer of that authority). What is it to have a commitment to another that can be broken for any reason?

3. If dating includes considering one for marriage, then obviously Christians may not date non-Christians because Christians may not consider marrying non-Christians any more than a man may consider marrying another man.

4. If dating does not include considering one for marriage, then what is the Christian's purpose in dating? What is "dating" after all?

5. There is no place to say "I love you" in a dating relationship. Those words mean commitment; yet when dating, the commitment only goes as far as the "feeling." What does it mean to say "I love you" if you may break up tomorrow because you found someone better? "I love you" translates to "I love me and I want you (at least for now)." Those words of commitment must be followed by proposal of marriage.

6. The right type of dating includes considering another person with prayerful purpose to be one's spouse; it includes no exclusivity outside an eye toward marriage; it includes wanting to bless the other person, considering them more important than yourself; it includes no obligations of submission to an unauthorized head; it includes not saying anything misleading to the other person in order to "win" her heart for personal, egotistical or any sort of selfish gain; it includes not implying anything without words that you wouldn't explicitly say with words; it means godliness.
These principles apply whether parents are involved in the dating process or not. They are principles that are within the grasp of any Christian who is serious about dating to the glory of God and, therefore, blessing a potential spouse.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Rome: Its Teachers and Followers in Light of Paul


The apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit declared that if he or even an angel from heaven preached any other gospel other than that which he preached let him be accursed.

With respect to the gospel, what the apostle had in view was not the finished work of Christ but rather the appropriation of that work. In other words, the apostle was not addressing whether Jesus died for his people and rose again for their justification. Rather, the apostle was jealous to protect and desirous to declare the good news of how the finished work of the Savior must be appropriated so that one can be saved. The apostle had in view justification by faith apart from works (Galatians 2:16).

The apostle taught that the forgiveness of sins and a right standing before God comes only through the monergistic work of the Holy Spirit and not by obeying God’s ordinances (even by grace). By being baptized into the finished work of Christ sinners become heirs with Christ according to the promise that was made to the patriarchs (Galatians 3:29). It is only through union with Christ that one is clothed in Christ’s righteousness (Galatians 3:27). Upon union with Christ the sinner is imputed with Christ's perfect righteousness, constituted as such, and then pardoned and declared legally not guilty for the sake of Christ. The apostle indexes the instrumental cause of the sinner’s pardon and right standing before God to faith and faith alone. Faith is the gift of God that is immediately present within the sinner the moment he is recreated in Christ and found in Him (Philippians 3:9).

The apostle distinguishes between the "bewitched" saints and the false teachers who did the bewitching by perverting the gospel of grace. The apostle’s unambiguous anathema was placed upon those who perverted the gospel and not upon the confused congregants who were about to fall from grace as it were. The apostle in the tradition of Christ always dealt more severely with the religious leaders who made proselytes twice the sons of hell as themselves (Matthew 23:15). It is the godless man who slips in unnoticed and denies the Sovereign Lord’s gospel of grace who faces the greater condemnation (Jude 4). Accordingly, we do well to consider what we are teaching because it is the teacher who will incur the more severe judgment (James 3:1). We should want to ensure that we are not found among those who will be destroyed for smuggling in damnable heresies (2 Peter 2:1).

The churches at Galatia were confused. The gospel was faint and in some sense unrecognizable; yet the church existed in a visible form with visible sacraments and the apostle addressed his audience as "brethren." It is noteworthy that Israel had an incorrect view of circumcision and how corporate membership related to salvation. Nonetheless, even given a perverted use of the sacrament it still distinguished the Jews from the world, marking them out as the visible people of God. Accordingly, Roman baptism, although perverted, is to be honored. Moreover, Israel called for the crucifixion of their Messiah; yet the apostle John records for us that that Christ came to “his own” who received him not. How are God’s covenant people to be identified? Is it by the orthodoxy of the gospel or the visible signs of the covenant (or both)? How are the Popes to be viewed? Well that’s an easy one. Let the Pope and his Bishops who pervert the gospel and lead people to hell be accursed - and all our Roman Catholic friends be saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.

He who cannot pronounce curses cannot pronounce blessings.

Ron

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Oliphint on Free Will

I'm afraid that Westminster Theological Seminary did not put their best foot forward and showed that they have no serious polemic against libertarian free will (LFW) and, therefore, the insidious theology of Molinism. Why Oliphint chose to tread in these waters unprepared, let alone do so in a book that was supposed to deal with “Reasons for Faith,” is a bit passing strange. Oh that the Reformed theologians of today would acquaint themselves with Edwards and Old Princeton! That so many devour Turretin who was anything but a technician in this regard and ignore the "Puritan Divine" (Edwards) remains a mystery!

Oliphint tries to argue against LFW by pointing out that the proponents of LFW deny that God can actualize all possible worlds. What Oliphint fails to demonstrate is that the compatibilist has a different understanding of the will as it relates to providence (Oliphint’s “unifying” principle between God’s sovereignty and human freedom) than the proponents of LFW. Oliphint is prepared to conclude that which Plantinga would gladly affirm; if God knows S will do x, S will do x. Oliphint is no different than Molina in this regard. Oliphint does distinguish himself from the Molinist in that the Molinist holds to possible worlds that are not feasible to actualize. Accordingly, Oliphint’s “victory” on the issue of free will would seem to be bound up in the disagreement that Molinists and Calvinists have over what God can actualize but never does he link the decree to the actual determination of the will, let alone explains his view of the will. Oliphint doesn’t attempt to show that God’s ability to actualize any "known" possible world where men choose responsibly is consistent with the non-contingency of human choices; rather he merely assumes that God can know future contingencies, a monstrosity indeed.

The point Calvinists are supposed to argue is that God in His providence causes man to choose x necessarily, and not contingently. Oliphint actually denies this. He wishes to affirm contingency of choice because he doesn’t seem to grasp that moral accountability is not indexed to contingency but rather to liberty, which is the ability to choose as one wants yet out of metaphysical necessity, which preserves moral accountability. The contingency Oliphint has in view suggests a metaphysic that is consistent with Molinism, contrary to Edwards and, therefore, presupposes the power of contrary choice, which would destroy moral accountability not save it. Oliphint introduces the Turretin notion of “modes of production” to argue for necessity of some sort. In doing so he settles for the "necessity" of Molinism not Calvinism! Oliphint essentially settles for future tense truth propositions of creaturely choices that are not metaphysically necessary but are merely "necessary" in the mind of God according to a decree that does not necessitate the action itself but rather leaves it contingent and, therefore, without a sufficient causal state of affairs to bring it into rational, actual, knowable existence. The "necessity" Oliphint settles for allows for a choice that might not occur being contingent, but will occur, being true and, therefore, knowable. How can knowledge ground necessity? Isn't knowledge receptive and not causal after all? Moreover, how can a determination of an end ensure that end through contingent means? Oliphint has a bit of explaining to do.

Oliphint gives us no reason to believe that he has a different view of the will than Billy Graham and Alvin Plantinga for that matter. (In one professor's syllabus on the Doctrine of Man at Westiminster-Philadelphia, it is argued that LFW is defeated simply by showing that regeneration precedes faith!) Oliphint agrees with all non-Socinian Armininians that whenever God knows that Jones will choose x, Jones will choose x; whenever God knows that Jones is responsible for choosing x, Jones chooses x freely and contingently. Oliphint appreciates that if God foreknows that Jones will do x, then it is true that Jones will do x since God cannot know something false. Oliphint also appreciates that it is fallacious to argue from the premise of God’s foreknowledge of outcomes to the necessity of those outcomes. The fallacy that Oliphint (and Helm for that matter) want to avoid is that of transferring the necessity of the inference to the conclusion. Oliphint operates under a sound rule of logic (though doesn’t state it): Jones will necessarily choose x is not implied by the premise that necessarily if God foreknows that Jones will choose x, then Jones will choose x. What doesn’t occur to Oliphint is that God cannot know contingent acts of the will; for what is a contingent act of the will but something with an outcome that defies any truth value! Oliphint quotes Turretin approvingly, “The infallibility and certainty of the event does not take away the nature of the contingency of things because things can happen necessarily as to the event yet contingently as to the mode of production… therefore, there remains always this distinction between necessary and contingent things.” What rank non-Socinian Arminian would not agree with that?

What Oliphint apparently fails to appreciate is that it is not fallacious to argue that if God knows Jones will do x, necessarily Jones will do x -- IF it is also true that it is necessary that Jones do x for God to know that Jones will do x. Paul Helm misses this very point as well. In other words, although it is fallacious to reason that if necessarily God knows that Jones will choose x, then Jones will choose x necessarily; it is not not fallacious to reason, given the additional premise, that Jones will choose x necessarily if the necessity of Jones's choice of x is presupposed by God's knowledge of Jones's choice x. As argued in the attached link, it is impossible to know the outcome of a contingent choice since a contingent choice is not one that will occur but merely might occur, and might-occurences defy definite truth values as explained here: http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2007/12/molinists-and-calvinists-agree-in.html
Without a truth value, what is left for God to know but a non-truth that cannot be known?

Rather than argue that God cannot know the outcome of a purely contingent act, being one that has no truth value, Oliphint takes his polemic in a completely different direction, denying the necessity of the “consequent and the absolute,” which presupposes that a choice can be other than it is metaphysically speaking. Contrary to Oliphint, the Edwardsian-Calvinist is to establish that purely contingent choices are not knowable and would destroy human responsibility; and that all choices are necessary not because God knows them as true but because of the causal basis of that knowledge, which entails that God providentially incline the will so that the choice He knows cannot be contrary to the way it will obtain through providence. I am not suggesting Oliphint should have disclosed whether he believes God acts positively on all actions of choice, or that he should have given us a detailed view of his philosophy of concurrence. Though that would have been nice. I would have settled for him not putting forth an Arminian notion of the will though! I suppose my greatest hope would have been that he affirmed that God preinterprets the particulars of providence as necessary causes that trigger human intentions that in turn trigger actions of choice. Not only does he not affirm such necessity, he opposes it by affirming contingency.

Buried in a footnote Oliphint quotes Muller who happily understands “that necessity and freedom are neither contraries nor contradictories; the contrary of necessity is impossibility; the contrary to freedom is coercion.” Does Oliphint grasp this? Does he understand that contingency opposes necessity and affirms impossibility? If so, why does he not explain how his view of the will differs from Plantinga? Why does he affirm “contingency” in the way he does; pitting it against necessity? Dabney couldn't have been more right when he commented: "But in a metaphysical point of view, I cannot but think that Turretin has made unnecessary and erroneous concessions. The future acts of free agents fall under the class of contingent effects: i.e., as Turretin concedes the definition, of effects such as that the cause being in existence, the effect may, or may not follow. (For instance: the dice box being shaken and inverted, the dice may or may not fall with their first faces uppermost.)... But let me ask: Has this distinction of contingent effects any place at all, in God's mind?" R.L. Dabney
 
Certainly Oliphint doesn't think that if we cannot see or measure causality, then there must be contingency. Mabye I can expect better from Poythress someday.

Ron


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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Dr. Gaffin On The Perpetual State of Justification


Dr. Richard Gaffin recently asserted in an article printed in the February, 2007 issue of New Horizons that the justified in Christ remain justified due to Jesus’ intercessory prayer (among other things). If such a point is sound, then it would stand to reason that without the supposed necessary condition of the Mediator’s prayer, the justified would fall from grace. Let’s remove from this discussion the obvious point that Christ holds together all things by the word of his power. Dr. Gaffin is not merely suggesting that if Christ doesn’t pray for the world it will fall apart and that the disintegration of the world would of course include the believer’s justification. Rather he is saying that if Christ does not pray for our state of justification, we would lose what we have in Christ. For Dr. Gaffin’s thesis to be true, it must be logically possible for the benefit of justification that proceeds from effectual calling to be undone. Obviously Dr. Gaffin appreciates that it is theologically impossible for a saint to lose his salvation because of God’s promise. The question is whether it is logically impossible for a soul to fall from grace and lose his forgiveness and righteousness in Christ. To entertain the logical possibility of one losing his justification, we must table the theological promise that informs us that such will not occur. We are not looking at what will occur but what could occur if there was no Divine promise to the contrary.

Allowing for counterfactuals, we can imagine without logical contradiction that I am writing this entry due to Jesus’ effectual prayer and that without it I would be reading instead. The reason that it is tenable that I could be reading rather than writing is because such a counterfactual does not contradict who I am; it does not contradict my essence in other words. Does it stand to reason that there would be no logical contradiction in my essence or in my relationship with God if I were to fall from grace due to a lack of intercessory prayer?

Why should we believe that the non-eternal, existential union that believers have in Christ by grace can be logically altered? It is probably more evident that it would be logically impossible for a glorified soul to fall from glory because of the ontological change that will occur when the corruptible puts on the incorruption. For starters, there would be no point of contact for sin to infect the glorified saint so that he might fall from glory. However, must redeemed sinners wait for their glorified state in order to receive any immutable, ontological change to their essence that would prohibit them from falling from God’s favor unto a loss of forgiveness in Christ? Is it logically possible for those who have been recreated in Christ to become uncreated and separated from Christ's body? Is it posssible that the Head be separated from His Body? Is it logically possible that one die if Christ has died as his substitute? Doesn't our security in Christ transcend His intercessory prayer and rely solely on what He has already done for us?

Our Lord is praying for many things for which I am grateful, but I am not convinced that He is praying that believers remain (forgiven) in Him and that He remain in them, anymore than we should suppose that Jesus must pray for the mutual indwelling of the three Persons of the Trinity. Of course, Christ prays that believers grow in him but why should we believe that He prays for those who are in him to be perpetually forgiven and declared righteous in Him? Don't believers have by grace what the Son has by nature – immutable sonship with all its privileges – namely, immutable union and communion with the Triune God that cannot logically (and of course theologically) be altered? Believers are Christ’s body. Can Christ lose his body? Must Christ pray that his vindication over death remain His and isn't Christ's vindication the believer's by a union with Christ that cannot be broken and need not be asked for by the Son?

If Jesus stopped praying for our sanctification, why would we not enter into glory as opposed to death? Why should we believe that the default position or gravitational pull is downward as opposed to upward for the saint who has been recreated in the image of Christ? I should probably tread lightly here given whom I am questioning but it seems rather obvious to me that our forgiveness has been sealed until the day of redemption and that fact is not a matter of prayer. What is a matter of prayer is the growth that has been appointed for the believer in Christ, for it is logically possible that one grow less than he will.

Ron

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Federal Vision, Augustinian not Reformed


Federal Vision (FV) theology borrows from Augustine at his worst while departing from Calvin and the Reformed confessions at their best. FV is correct that perseverance is a gift given to the elect alone but where the system is terribly flawed is in its doctrine of regeneration, which suggests that the reprobate can, for a season, enjoy the grace of faith and union with Christ prior to falling away. Consequently, the FV has no place to ground the assurance of salvation that is available to the regenerate because the system allows for the reprobate to receive the same measure of regeneration and faith as the elect. Assurance becomes predicated upon the secret decree of perseverance, which cannot be known being a secret! All of which stands in stark contrast to the biblical teaching, that the Holy Spirit bears witness with the believer’s spirit according to the unambiguous word of promise that all who God calls, He justifies and will glorify.

If FV has brought something new to the church that exceeds the theological precision and exhaustiveness of the Reformed confessions, then what is it that its proponents have discovered? The simple answer is that the FV movement has brought nothing new to the church but rather denies what the Reformers taught. What is most disruptive is that FV'ists claim the tradition of the Reformers only to turn around and deny what they taught, and even died for.

Ron

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Youth Group Eclipsing Grace? Can God Compete?


"Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul." J.I. Packer

Is the Christian church training our young people in the way that they shouldn't go by not teaching them that corporate worship and the study of God is essential to living the Christian life?

Don't get me wrong. I am not against youth group (necessarily). My question is why is it that so many in the church today are preoccupied with a vibrant youth ministry yet not the least bit faithful in joining with the church in corporate prayer, the sacraments, corporate worship and fellowship, and the hearing of God's word? I am afraid that there might be too many parents raising children in the church who are looking for spirituality in all the wrong places.

Too often young people in the church are looking to meet God under rocks. What a shame that is. If for nothing else, for the sake of Christ's sheep, shouldn't the church be instructing them in the God ordained means of grace? We have children who, as Lewis said, "go on making mud pies in a slum because they cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." Some will undoubtedly say, "Oh but Ron, we must meet our children where they are!" No, I say. We must do better than that. We must no not only meet our children where they are; we must teach our children where they must meet God! Let's not do one without the other.

Is there liberty to give my children donuts for dinner? Well of course there is but how profitable would it be? Two things that must be considered are what would they be receiving in the actual meal and what would I be teaching them about good nourishment? In the like manner, is youth group lawful? Well of course it is but what can they receive in youth group as compared to corporate worship and what would we be teaching them about their need for corporate worship if we allow youth group to be a greater priority in the young person’s life than the corporate worship of God? I am against a "vibrant" youth group if such a mindset reduces to giving children dessert prior to them feasting on the main meal. Let's do both. If a church is detetermined to have a "youth group", then make it an excellent one by emphasizing the priority of corporate worship and all that it entails. I question, however, that if youth resonate with that, then will there even be any great need for youth group? Won't fellowship in various homes suffice?

"If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it."

Plain and simple from the prophet Isaiah, if the young people of the church really want to delight in the Lord, then they should not seek to find their own pleasure on Sunday but rather do those things pleasing to God, which can largely be accomplished by receiving the grace that is dispensed during the corporate worship of God. Doing the Lord's pleasure on Sunday is a sufficient condition for delighting in the Lord; so let's get back to basics, shall we? Whether or not Word and Sacrament is what people want -- it is what we desperately need. I've got an idea: let's teach about Word and Sacrament in youth group!

Jane Austen’s Mr. Bennet said to his silly daughter Kitty, "You go to Brighton!—I would not trust you so near it as East-Bourne, for fifty pounds! No, Kitty, I have at last learnt to be cautious, and you will feel the effects of it. No officer is ever to enter my house again, nor even to pass through the village. Balls will be absolutely prohibited, unless you stand up with one of your sisters. And you are never to stir out of doors till you can prove that you have spent ten minutes of every day in a rational manner."

Bennet finally got it right on behalf of his daughter Kitty but at the high cost of his youngest daughter Lydia’s dignity. He finally learned that certain privileges must be earned by a demonstration of an appreciation of what is needful. Until Kitty could prove that she could be sober minded for even ten minutes, she was not permitted to stir outdoors. Note well that the requirement was a precondition to function well in the reward that was before her. In other words, Kitty would not even be able to operate well outdoors unless she had learned to be sober minded indoors. In the like manner, is it really that unreasonable to strive to teach our Christian young people to have an appreciation and affection for the inner sanctum of the church prior to cutting them loose outdoors, to be “spiritual” in youth group? Let's not try to shortcut God's ways in an effort to know God better.

For a description of what a great youth group might look like, maybe take a peek here: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=720&var3=searchresults&var4=Search&var5=youth_group

Ron

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Friday, January 12, 2007

The Precedence of Paedocommunion Does Not Come From The Precedence For Covenant Baptism


There is a difference in precedence between infant baptism and infant communion. The former is built upon the OT precedence that infants of professing believers are to receive the mark of inclusion into the people of God. It is not suggested under the older economy that infants should participate in a covenant meal of communion with God. Moreover, the reality that the sign and seal of circumcision signifies need not be tied to the moment of the administration of the sacrament, whereas the practice of communion IS communion. Communion, in other words, is not merely a sign and seal that is to be considered later but rather it IS communion at the moment of partaking. Accordingly, whereas one can be passive when receiving the sign of entrance into the visible, covenant people of God such is not analogous to the practice of paedocommunion. The mind must be engaged in communion.

Ron
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Saturday, January 06, 2007

A Sound Proof For God's Existence

So often we hear that the existence of God cannot be proven, which simply is not true. That is not to say that we come to know God through cleverly devised proofs. Nothing could be further from the truth. We know God by nature and we must justify this knowledge by Scripture, the Christian's ultimate authority.

All reasoning has a terminus point; for the Christian it is Scripture. For the unbeliever it is usually the universal laws of logic, which problematically do not comport with any worldview that denies the existence of God and our being made in his image as rational, logical creatures.

Since the premises in the following argument are true and the form of the argument is valid, the conclusion is reliable and true.

P1. If God has revealed himself, then God exists
P2. God has revealed himself
C. Therefore, God exists

So Christian, please never say again that one cannot prove the existence of God.

The issue is not about proof. Proving God's existence is simple, as was just shown. The issue is over the justification of premises and what people will accept as authoritative. For instance, if one believes that his senses can justify premises, then one might choose to prove that there are crackers in the pantry in the following manner:

P1. If I see crackers in the pantry, then there are crackers in the pantry
P2. I see crackers in the pantry
C. Therefore, there are crackers in the pantry

The deductive argument for there being crackers in the pantry was implicit in Dr. Bahnsen's debate with Gorden Stein. The point I'd like to make is that only a skeptic would deny such a proof can be sound because only a skeptic would deny that one's senses can be reliable. Just the same, if a skeptic did not accept the truth of the premises, the proof would not become invalidated or proven false. In the like manner, only an unbeliever - who is suppressing in unrighteousness the obvious truth of God's revelation - would deny that God has revealed himself and, therefore, God exists. Just as it is true that the skeptic's disfunctional worldview cannot invalidate what is actually true - it is no less true that the fallen worldview cannot invalidate the absolute authority of Scripture. Truth is not a matter of consensus after all. To think so is to confuse proof with persuasion, a fundamental error in apologetics.

Don't get me wrong; I would not employ such a proof for God's existence in a debate with a professing atheist. My only point in putting forth such a proof is to show that the issue is not about proof but rather about the willingness to yield to the self-attesting, authoritative Christ of Scripture and the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit who testifies that God is speaking in Scripture.

Not to despair, we are not reduced to fideism, which is to say we are not reduced to saying that God has revealed himself and that settles the matter. Although it is true that God has revealed himself to all men everywhere, the Christian is to defend the faith and not just assert what he knows to be true.

We should defend the faith by arguing that God is the necesssary precondition for intelligible experience.

Prove A: The Christian God exists.
Step 1 ~A: (Assume the opposite of what we are trying to prove): The Christian God does not exist.
Step 2 (~A--> B): If God does not exist, then there is no intelligible experience since God is the precondition of intelligibility
Step 3 (~B): There is intelligible experience (Contradiction!)
Step 4 (~ ~A):
It is not the case that God does not exist (Modus Tollens on 2 and 3)
Step 5 (A): --> God does exist (Law of negation.)
Q.E.D.

The above demonstration of the transcendetal argument for the existence of God (TAG) is sound in that the form is valid and the premises are true. We must keep in mind that the truth of any valid conclusion is not predicated upon the consensus of the truth of the premises. Accordingly, since unbelievers refuse to admit to the truth claims of the Bible and, therefore, step 2 of the proof, the only thing the Christian can do is (i) reduce the opposing worldview to absurdity by exposing its arbitrariness and inconsistency and (ii) show how the God of Scripture provides a necessary precondition for knowledge, reality and ethics. In a word, the apologist is to demonstrate that God's special revelation, Scripture, offers the only justification for intelligible experience.

TAG is to be offered as a challenge to the unbeliever and, therefore, a starting point for discussion. The apologist is then to demonstrate by the life experiences enjoyed by the professing atheist how intelligible experience presupposes God's revelation of himself. For instance, the apologist might wish to demonstrate how only the Christian worldview supplies the necessary precondition for the justification of trusting one's senses in order, for instance, to begin to justify the knowledge of crackers being in the pantry. In doing so the apologist gives "evidence" of the reliability of the proof, but such evidence cannot "prove" that the proof is sound anymore than evidence can prove God's existence. Again, the unbeliever denies step-2 of the proof. Accordingly, all the apologist is left to do is show that logic, reality and ethics presuppose that which only the Christian worldview can afford - a common creator who has provides a fruitful connection between the minds of men and the created order, making intelligible experience possible.

In sum, the proof of God's existence is sound in and of itself because it employs a valid form and true premises. Consequently, the argument succeeds in proving the existence of God, but in a much more powerful way than the first deductive argument at the top of the page, which although is sound, does not deal with the preconditions of intelligible experience and, therefore, is not very interesting other than it serves as a good example (to the Christian in particular) that God's existence can be proved.

Finally, the Christian would do well not only to offer a proof for God's existence in a transcendental fashion but also to expose the various forms of the one unbelieving worldview for their arbitrariness and inconsistencies. Note well, however, that to reduce an opposing worldview to absurdity is not to prove the Christian worldview. It's a far cry from it in fact. Our apologetic is not inductive. We must also appreciate that all the competitors to the Christian worldview are simply variations of the single-unbelieving worldview, which posits that intelligible experience can be justified apart from revelation. Consequently, there are not an infinite number of worldviews as some have claimed but rather only two. I know this from Scripture, which is a reliable appeal for truth; Scripture allows us to know some things without having to know all things! Scripture is the only appeal for those who wish to justify their knowledge of anything.

At the end of the day, "Jesus loves me this I know, 'cause the Bible tells me so." That's not my defense of the Christian worldview, but it's certainly a defensible fact. In other words, we don't "reason" ourselves to God, but our belief in God is indeed reasonable. In fact, it's not just reasonable; it's justifiable and true, which is to say it constitutes as knowledge. Belief in God is the only reasonable position to hold if for no other reason, it is unreasonable to argue against God's existence because to do so one must first presuppose those tools of argumentation that are only defenisble given God's existence.

Ron

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